Karol Osborne | 11/19/2018 8:18:58 PM
(11/19/18) ALEXANDRIA, La. — AgMagic, the LSU AgCenter premier agricultural exhibit, made its debut in central Louisiana Nov. 14-15, welcoming more than 800 third-graders to the State Evacuation Center in Alexandria.
“Bringing AgMagic to the area has been an exciting venture, opening the world of agriculture through hands-on learning experiences children can relate to at school and at home,” said AgCenter Central Region director Tara Smith.
Each of five interactive stations featured a variety of lessons targeting plants, animals, food, forestry and 4-H.
“AgMagic takes students on a visual journey that links food and fiber products from forests, field crops and livestock that we use every day, and lessons are strategically designed to connect with core state standards,” said AgCenter regional 4-H coordinator Esther Boe.
Parkway Elementary School teacher Hannah Bassette said her students’ learning experiences will serve as a launching point for other classroom instruction.
“Whenever you have something hands-on like this, they remember it,” she said.
Because the children are increasing their background knowledge, Bassette said, reading and writing about related lesson topics become easier for them.
Students observed firsthand farm animals, learning about their importance to agriculture for food and fiber production.
The exhibit highlighted poultry production and showcased sheep, meat goats, rabbits, a dairy cow, a pig and even a donkey.
“The children asked some interesting questions, and most knew nothing about egg production or how broilers are produced to supply the meat used in some of their favorite foods,” said AgCenter livestock agent Rodney Johnson.
Young visitors were exposed to agriculture from farm to table, first learning about gardens, crop production and the role of pollinators, then making a fresh salad in a cup with fresh produce representing edible plant parts.
Children took turns using food models to make a healthy MyPlate and played exercise games to raise their heart rate and learn about staying physically fit.
Shirley Foster, a senior at Alexandria Senior High, said the youth had fun at the Germ Cave, where a black light environment and glow-in-the-dark lotion are used to simulate how germs are spread.
“I had never seen anything like that before — it was really neat,” she said.
Hicks High School third-grade teacher Tammi Smith said participating in a story-telling-style role play exercise about Mother Nature and evergreen and deciduous trees at the World of Wonder station helped her class better relate on their level.
The forestry-themed exhibit explored trees, their life cycle and the habitat they provide for a variety of common Louisiana wildlife.
“I noticed in the garden and forestry areas, my kids were getting to see and touch those things that we talked about in our classroom, so they really understood,” said Mamou Elementary School teacher Megan Velek, adding that she had recently covered lessons on Louisiana agricultural crops.
Parkway Elementary teacher Kathy Booty said that seeing the cotton gin operate and learning about agriculture across the state connected perfectly with a literature unit she had just completed.
“It had every aspect of what we talked about, so it connected to the classroom,” she said.
Getting to see cotton being ginned, feel the fiber and learn how byproducts are used fascinated children and adults alike.
“I had never seen a cotton gin myself, so that was the most exciting thing to me,” said Hicks High School teacher Mary Altenburger, adding all the stations touched on many topics that will be covered on end-of-the-year state testing.
Numerous ag-related games and make-and-take activities, like bug rubbings and living necklaces, kept the enthusiastic visitors busy as groups arrived for the scheduled tours.
Louisiana School for the Agricultural Sciences FFA volunteers demonstrated how to make a garden in a glove and taught the younger youth about the importance of agriculture.
“We had little gloves, and we put cotton balls in the fingers, wet them and added seeds. Then the seeds will sprout, and the children can plant them at home,” said FFA vice president Bethany Bonnette.
Amy Eckerly, a Northwestern State University senior and student teacher at Parkway Elementary, gathered many ideas for hands-on activities she could use in the classroom.
“A program of this size and scope takes a powerhouse team, a passion for agriculture and commitment to serving the community,” Boe said.
The two-day event was supported with the help of more than 200 teen and adult volunteers who assisted with teaching and supervision responsibilities, she said.
Students from Avoyelles Public Charter School select ingredients as they make their own salads in a cup during AgMagic at the State Evacuation Center in Alexandria on Nov. 15. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter
Students from West Leesville Elementary School choose from a variety of foods to put together a healthy plate during AgMagic at the State Evacuation Center in Alexandria on Nov. 15. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter